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The Dear Hunter

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The Dear Hunter Act II: The Meaning of, & All Things Regarding Ms. Leading album cover
4.06 | 324 ratings | 25 reviews | 38% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Death and the Berth (0:38)
2. The Procession (4:59)
3. The Lake and the River (9:46)
4. The Oracles on the Delphi Express (4:15)
5. The Church and the Dime (4:43)
6. The Bitter Suite 1 and 2: Meeting Ms. Leading and Through the Dime (6:09)
7. The Bitter Suite 3: Embrace (7:53)
8. Smiling Swine (4:45)
9. Evicted (3:44)
10. Blood of the Rose (3:48)
11. Red Hands (6:07)
12. Where the Road Parts (4:29)
13. Dear Ms. Leading (4:28)
14. Black Sandy Beaches (4:24)
15. Vital Vessels Vindicate (7:42)

Total Time 77:50

Line-up / Musicians

- Casey Crescenzo / vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, bass, piano, Rhodes electric piano, organ, percussion, marimba, producing & mixing
- Erick Serna / acoustic & electric guitars
- Luke Dent / piano, organ, vocals
- Sam Dent / drums, percussion, glockenspiel, timpani, tubular bells

- Jason Belcher / trumpet, French horn
- Phil Crescenzo / banjo
- Matt Tobin / violin
- Philip Wolf / cello
- Brandon Brooks / cello
- Krysten Keches / harp

Releases information

CD Triple Crown Records ‎- 03071-2 (2007, US)

LP Triple Crown Records ‎- 114669E (2014, US) New cover art

Tracks 9 and 11-14 originally appeared on the limited edition Demo 'Dear Ms. Leading'

Thanks to darqdean for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy THE DEAR HUNTER Act II: The Meaning of, & All Things Regarding Ms. Leading Music

THE DEAR HUNTER Act II: The Meaning of, & All Things Regarding Ms. Leading ratings distribution

(324 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(38%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

THE DEAR HUNTER Act II: The Meaning of, & All Things Regarding Ms. Leading reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by chopper
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The continuation of the promised 6-CD concept series from Casey Crescenzo. This time he shares some more of the instrumental duties but it's still mainly his own work. As with Act I, The Dear Hunter have delivered a CD with an array of styles from Alice Cooper through New Orleans jazz to Mars Volta-style rock. This is a full length CD and, whilst perhaps not having quite as many stand out moments as Act I, is still a fine follow up. Crescenzo again shows what a great singer he is with his range and emotive ability. Sadly, the lyrics are printed even smaller than on the first CD so I'm none the wiser as to the full story of the concept, however this doesn't detract from the listening pleasure that this album affords. "Red Hands" is perhaps the best track here, Crescenzo delivers it with a lot of emotion, culminating in the "Oh my God what have I done?" chorus. People will probably notice similarities with Coheed and Cambria in the multi-part concept series but the music is only similar in places and has a lot more variety.

I see no reason why this wouldn't appeal to fans of the afore mentioned Coheed and Cambria and also anyone who likes powerful, emotional progressive music. This will probably get my vote as the best CD of 2007.

Review by Moatilliatta
5 stars This band was my greatest discovery for 2007. Melodic, emotional and accessible music that still maintains a high artistic integrity. This music is well textured and complex, but the intricacies are subtle. And the use of recurring themes on this record are very, very well done; like Scenes from a Memory, you will spot small lyrical and musical motifs throughout the record - not all on the first listen - and they will really enhance the experience. This record has a rare characteristic in which all of the songs are equally enjoyable as stand-alone tracks as they are together, but they are different experiences. These guys seem to be very efficient, and will be releasing records frequently. They are off to a great start and I look forward to hearing more from them. Highly recommended.
Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars There's actually not much to add for this release, compared to what I wrote for the first album (an excellent mixture of modern indie/emo/alternative-rock and excellent emotional power-progressiveness and atmosphere). I must however agree with reviewer 'chopper' here: this albums doesn't contain as many stand-out moments as its predecessor. Or more precisely, they are too scattered. It's greatness lies more in the form of 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts', as this is a very consistent offering.

The dramatic intro of The Death And The Berth quickly launches into the dense and complex first passage of The Procession. A loaded effort with an extremely powerful chorus. One of the favourites here. Heavy drumming, gentle guitar, organ sweeps and sound effects takes turn in this one and Casey Crescenzo's vocals are perfectly balanced between emotional and aggressive capacity.

And just as stated earlier, those great moments won't be plentiful. There are 15 songs distributed over almost 80 minutes, and I feel I have the right to ask for a little more. Develop ideas a little more, be slightly braver Casey! There's so much capacity in this music that there's no need to nurture the 'standard post- hardcore' sound here. It's not ruining the album, but again keeps me from awarding a The Dear Hunter record masterpiece status.

I love the structure of The Oracles on the Delphi Express. Sinister song that sends images of show numbers from old movies through my mind. Adds another dimension to the storytelling. The modernized Beatles-tinged riff on Smiling Swine has grown (and keeps growing) and the lovely vocals and atmosphere later on that track is equally good.. Relaxing, captivating and charming. Beautiful orchestral arrangements on Blood of the Rose! More of this and I'd smack an extra star to the rating. It really is that full of potential.

A very eclectic record. There's so much here for the patient listener. Lot's of layers and great instrumentation will help keeping the interest level high, and this album in your mind for many pleasant listens.

//Linus W

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Am I experiencing thing that I did during early 80s when I heard Marillion's "Script for a Jester's Tear" in 1983 where I thought the music really blew me away followed with another great release of "Fugazi" in 1984? I remember vividly that I finally found the band's EP "Market Square Heroes" (1982) was also excellent. My experience with The Dear Hunter is now a bit different because I knew the band only after they released the second album "Act II: The Meaning of, & All Things Regarding Ms. Leading". But I was so sure about this band based on information from my prog friend, so I purchased the two albums altogether. While the first one is basically an EP, I did enjoy the music very well and I gave a masterpiece rating for the EP. Once I was satisfied with the first EP album I then continued enjoying the second album which also favors me a lot. I don't know why, the music of The Dear Hunter seems to match with my musical aspirations. It's just like when I heard Marillion at the first time. Even though style-wise there is nothing similar between two bands, musically, but the experience is very similar. I am very happy having The Dear Hunter two albums. Both are excellent.

As I was totally satisfied with their debut EP, I expected the full-length album should be in a better or the same quality with its EP. I know that this was initially was a side project by Casey Crescenzo with his previous punk band The Receiving End of Sirens which later he left to focus more on The Dear Hunter. And my expectation was fulfilled satisfactorily by the band as the music which focuses on story-telling style has successfully combined wide range of music styles and influences from The Mars Volta, The beatles, ACT, Supertramp, A.C.T., Queen - even though the influence is not that obvious. It quickly grows on me that these two albums by The Dear Hunter does fit my musical taste and I look forward to having another great follow-up album.

While at the EP album Casey used as minimum as possible on session players where he asked his brother to sit on drum stool and his mom on backing vocal department; this album involves many musicians. It can be concluded that Casey Crescenzo had put serious efforts in making the second album much more successful. The result is an ambitious music with great variety of styles and all of them flow nicely from one passage to another, from one track to another. And .. oh my God .. my ears and my mind are filled with joys during the time enjoying this album. Today, I have been listening this second album in its entirety for three times. Marvelous!

The album starts with a silent part under "The Death and The Berth" (0:38) which flows brilliantly to a sudden blast of music under "The Procession" (4:59). This second track is truly dynamic and inspiring in terms of melodies and beats. The musical riffs resulted from the combined guitar, piano and bass guitar is really mind boggling. It then flows brilliantly to the next ambitious composition "The Lake and the River" (9:29) which I presumes something connected with the previous EP. This track defines the true colors of The Dear Hunter especially in creating a combined grooves, chords, notes and wonderful nuances created. Oh by the way, the key characteristics that make the music is so wonderful is the vocal line and the flow of melodies from one passage to another. Yes, I can sense a flavor of The Mars Volta, but there are bits of A.C.T. as well.

Under "The Oracles on the Delphi Express" (4:18) the band creates a "happy go lucky" kind of music with a bit of swing jazz music (not really!) with nice beats. The music sounds like a dialogue accentuated by the voices of piano and dynamic drumming. It's really an enjoyable song. "The Church and The Dime" (4:57) is a logical continuation with the previous track in more ambient way. It also provides a break with a music that is similar to Radiohead style even though not the same at all.

"The Bitter Suite 1" starts with powerful vocal line backed with ambient piano work. It then moves nicely to mellow part as "The Bitter Suite 2" starts mellow and with nice drumwork it moves to higher tones. I can sense the style of "Got To Get Into My Life" (The Beatles) at track 8 "Smiling Swine". It's nice, really. The rest of tracks flow beautifully from "Evicted" (3:44) right way to the end "Vital Vessels Vindicate".

Overall, this is an essential album. On production, the soniq quality is not as good as the EP release. Highly recommended!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A good rock album, nothing more, nothing less.

I bought THE DEAR HUNTER the same day I also bought PHIDEAUX's last album, following the incredibly high rating and great recommendations here in PA. While I totally agree about the excellence of the latter, I only partially understand the acclaim that the former has received.

What I found in this album is very competent modern alternative rock with progressive rock tendencies. I hear a lot of influences from bands like THE MARS VOLTA (in their earlier, better days), COHEED AND CAMBRIA, but also of different bands like MUSE, and just a little bit of neo-prog bands or classic artists like PINK FLOYD.

The music is very well-played and it has very interesting arrangements, but the progressive factor eludes me at times. To be honest, there's moments when the music actually takes a turn for the more commercial side, and at several moments I was reminded of a decent pop/rock band like MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, especially in the second half of the album, where the music approaches that flavor of pop/rock/pomp that the famous act drove to fame in "The Black Parade". Here, the songs are more complex, the textures are much more elaborated and the subject itself is deeper. But, in the end, the similarities are there.

The melodies are good but not great, even though at times they manage to shine. There's a sense of drama that permeates the album that helps make it a more entertaining experience. As for the musicianship, as with pretty much all modern semi-progressive bands, is quite good, with a vocalist that sings in the same neurotic/frenetic style of THE MARS VOLTA's, but in a lower, more bearable tone.

An enjoyable album that, in my view, doesn't tower over similar albums, and doesn't demand from me the high ratings that it has received from other reviewers. In my opinion, the next album by THE DEAR HUNTER could be much better if they cut down the number of songs (some are lacking in character) and they decide to further embark in a more straight progressive journey. For now, 3 stars, but it's really a 3.5.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Act II: The Meaning Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading is the debut album from The Dear Hunter. The title suggests that there is an Act I which is also true, but it is an EP called Act I: The Lake South, The River North released in 2006 not a full album. On Act I Casey Crescenzo was the only member of the band and while there are other members mentioned on drums, keyboards and guitars my guess is that they are hired guns and not real members of the band. This is Casey Crescenzo´s band which is clear when you see that he has written all the material and plays Guitar, piano, bass, keyboards, percussion as well as sing lead vocals.

The music style is alternative rock with progressive tendencies and bands like The Mars Volta, My Chemical Romance and Panic at the Disco comes to mind even though The Dear Hunter has their own style. The aforementioned bands are all more or less emo but as with The Mars Volta, The Dear Hunter is far away from being a fully fledged emo band. It´s thankfully more a tendency in their music than a dominant part. The Dear Hunter´s music is very vocal based but there are definitely some interesting instrumental things being played here and there. The music is very melodic and Casey´s singing style makes this a very emotional experience. This can be both a good and a bad thing depending on your taste. The album lasts for 76:56 minutes which can seem a bit too long and I must admit that I liked Act I a bit more than this one, but on the other hand there are no bad songs on Act II, some of them are just a bit too similar sounding.

The musicianship is excellent. Casey Crescenzo is really an accomplished musician and his sidekicks also play their parts well.

The production is well done. The emphasis is on the vocals but everything is clearly heard in the mix.

The cover art is beautiful and in line with the cover from Act I. I think it´s a beautiful concept.

Act II is a great album even though it doesn´t really suit my normal taste. It´s way above average though and deserves 4 stars. I´ll recommend that you start with Act I though as it is a bit more accessible since it´s not as long.

Review by horsewithteeth11
4 stars I first heard of "The Dear Hunter" from a friend of mine who saw them perform live. I can't remember what band he said they were performing with. But from the way he described them, they sounded like a fine jewel shining in what is the otherwise murky waters of experimental/progressive rock. Sometimes it bothers me how many people seem to think that "experimental rock" and "progressive rock" are the same thing these days, so I ended up putting them off for awhile, dismissing them as another experimental rock band that was just a fad of indie rockers. One day I happened to notice that they were on PA however and ended up listening to the sample song The Lake and the River on their page. I probably listened to it a good 4-5 times in a row. The two things that surprised me the most were Casey Crescenzo's vocals and the very eclectic approach the song had. But needless to say, I was hooked immediately. I got both this album and Act I shortly after, and both have done anything but disappoint. It's amazing how many genres have been crammed into this album.

There's definitely elements of post-hardcore (since Casey was previously in the post-hardcore band "The Receiving End of Sirens"), but those influences are only noticeable from time to time. There's also progressive rock, experimental rock, a bit of folk, some nice acoustic work, and what I think are some influences from Coheed and Cambria. Although no single genre of music sticks out more than the others. This is a very eclectic album. And it touches many different emotions as well. On one song, Casey may be shouting and belting the lyrics out to higher ranges and the music is heavy-hitting (a bit lighter than The Mars Volta) and in the next song, the music shifts to Casey almost whispering with some nice acoustic instruments and violins, harp, and trumpet among others. There's really something for people of all musical tastes here. The production quality is top notch as well. Nothing I can complain about it.

Really, this album is pretty close to perfect. But if there's one thing I can complain about, it's the length. I read about how the band actually recorded 120 minutes of music for the album, but had to cut it down to 77 because they didn't want to release a double LP. Sometimes when I listen to the album, my mind tends to drift off briefly in the second half. Regardless, this is a very talented project that Mr. Crescenzo has created and I can't wait to see the 6-part concept unfold. I'll definitely be picking up Act III: Life and Death later this month. Keep your eyes on this band in the coming years because they're starting to make some huge impacts. 4 stars to a well-deserved release.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 2/6 (all reviewerss from first part already on board, great) "The Death And The Berth" first sound here is so uniique, I like it from no clear to see reason. But as intro is the most suitable to set the feeling of past times. "The Procession" continues in emotional style. And I'm starting to be quite used to it. "The Lake and the River" introduces yet another way how the story can be told. It's amazing, but almost all here is new. Still new, just created by CC. Right here you can see example of how song started like something, let's call it A style. And ends with for example G. Folky like ending which remind me first album's first track. Or other tracks, they're new, but something is connecting them all. The atmosphere.

"The Oracles On The Delphi Express", my personal favourite. Crazy piano, terrifying lyrics. Reminding me Dream Theater's The Dance of Eternity. Then, even loud song, isn't so significant, as next two. "The Bitter Suite I And II: Meeting Ms. Leading And Through The Dime" lyrics can quite kick you in the guts. If I understand them correctly. Name speaks for itself. This chord in the end, when lyrics "resurface again" reminds me my past. When I used to listen similar catchy tunes over and over again, till I, exhausted, fell into sleep and dreams. This is quite melodic too, at least second part of the song, but lyrical deepness is unmeasurable. And as metaphor of sex (I believe) is adequate.

And again, "Smiling Swine" is haunting my sense of morality. Both parts, //he telescoped his hand//, said with such ease. And second part, with her addicted realization about her feelings together with crazy (one two three four) pace, well, I'm done here. Next tracks, like "Evicted" continues in tradition of cruel lyrics with nice, piano flavoured, drums driven (I know, it's strange). While "Blood of the Rose" presents tango-like (or similar dramatical dance) melody with melancholic strings. The Story continues slowly. "Red Hands" is rewrite track which was on demo tape I think. And again, strong in feelings song. And story continues.

Second masteerpiece. For story and more punk prog lovers. 5(-)

EDIT: 4(-), Well, same as with edit of first part, it loses, but even more.

Review by Prog Leviathan
3 stars Dear Hunter's "Act II: Ms Leading" is a difficult album for me to discuss, for while overall I feel that the band's energy, compositions, and performances are all very good, there is a distinct repulsion I feel towards their vibe, which tip-toes a little too much into the "hardcore" or "emo" mainstream for me.

For starters, "Act II" is a high-energy, vaudivilleian experience, dominated by theatrics and up- front vocals. Musicianship is quite good, but there are no "wow" moments in either solo or group playing; the direction seems to be in the total effect, rather than highlights. Songs cover lots of ground stylistically-- from big, kinetic bombast to quite, delicate, and controlled melody making. The Mars Volta comparissons are (in this case) fair, although doing so sets the bar impossibly high for Dear Hunter; "Act II" is neither as intense, emotive, fragile, or well- performed as any of the key Mars Volta albums, but they do a commendable job using the popular prog/pop style to create their own voice.

The listener is definitely taken on a journey through the course of this album, the question is: will they end up wanting to go?

The answer depends almost entirely on how much one enjoys (or can endure) the vocals of Crezcendo. This is where the line in the sand is drawn, with "Act II's" pop/rock coming to the forefront throughout. Crescendo shouts for the entire album, in a style I've been told by fans is similar to the "hardcore" style of pop music (although if you listen to bands from the tech/extreme prog metal category, you'll find that description laughibly innacurate). His shouts are somtimes exciting, sometimes sloppy, and almost always uncalled for; he even belts out lyrics during the album's ballads. There is a sort of diaphramatic "ugh" that he ends phrases with which sounds very contrived, taking away some of the luster of the group's otherwise interesting instrument work.

As someone new to this style of music, "Act II" turned me off. If you're like me and have limited exposure to popular artistic pop/rock, then don't be fooled by the comparisons to Mars Volta-- Dear Hunter is much more on the pop side of things, which while artistic, will probably only appeal to fans who are already into this style of music.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I remember the buzz when this album came out and i soon found myself buying this cd. I listened to a couple of tracks not long after I got it but put it aside because i'm not really into this style of music. So here I am a couple of years later and after about 6 listens and I still feel the same way about it. There's this strong Indie / Alternative flavour to it, very modern sounding. It reminds me mostly of MUSE maybe because of the dominant vocals in that same style. THE DECEMBERISTS came to mind a lot too. Piano and drums lead the way instrumentally but we get some harp, cello and violins helping out too.

This is a concept album at almost 77 minutes. Ouch. "Blood Of The Rose" is probably my favourite tune with the strings and horns helping out, but overall it's hard for me to even offer up 3 stars for this album. I'm going to give this to my 25 year old MUSE fan daughter who will appreciate this more than I do i'm sure.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First I was disappointed. The I was confused. Then I started to get it. Then I loved it. Now I'm confused again.

This album is a gem, it really is. Casey Crescenzo is extremely talented and his talents do not go to waste. Act two of this massive six act rock opera is a beauty, a story about a young man's exposure to lust and the bad things in life (he of course only had known about the good things.) After his mother died, The Dear Hunter wanted to learn more about her and went to the brothel where she worked. He falls in love with a prostitue but can't bear living with her profession so he leaves her.

The album itself is very indie but has just enough progressive elements in it to give it a nice raw-yet-complex flavor. It stays more indie than progressive throughout the album so it sounds a little repitive. Emotional is another good way to describe the music. After having only good in life, I'm sure the bad things hit hard.

I'll go ahead and give this four stars, 4.4 to be exact. It's really wonderful when you ''get'' it but it takes awhile.

After the epic musical journey of The Dear Hunter's stumbles through love, loss, and depression, the piano outro that ends the first act ends this one as well. The boy is off to war.

Review by VanVanVan
5 stars In my opinion this is the undisputed masterpiece of the three Dear Hunter releases currently out. This is one of a very number of 80 minute albums that I can listen too and consider every track an absolute masterpiece. There is zero filler here; all the tracks work together and none of them are noticeably weaker than any of the others.

Musically, this falls into the sort of "pseudo-prog" alternative rock genre, probably most similar to Coheed and Cambria in terms of style. If anyone has heard Casey Crescenzo's previous project The Receiving End of Sirens that is going to be the best reference point for this, though this does, I think, have a bit more prog influence than that does.

Additionally, this is a concept album, and in fact is part of a larger concept cycle as evidenced by the "Act II" in the title. This section, I believe, has to do something with the main character ("The Dear Hunter") falling in and out of love with a prostitute he meets, but even after many, many listens I am unsure as to what exactly the story here is. That's not a bad thing, though, the music takes precedence to story, and in my opinion that's how concept albums should be.

The vocals will probably not be for everyone; Casey Crescenzo sings in a very emotional, almost raw style that has far more to do with the emo and alternative scenes than with the theatrical prog vocals of the 70s. That said, I think they are absolutely phenomenal. He is able to convey an immense amount of power and emotion in his vocals, and it works with the music and the lyrics perfectly.

Thus, I have no qualms about calling this an absolute masterpiece; from the epic "The Lake and the River" to the comparatively sedate "The Bitter Suite" to the incredibly intense "Red Hands," there is not a weak track here.


Review by TheGazzardian
4 stars Case Crescenzo's "The Dear Hunter" project is an ambitious affair - a six album cycle detailing the life and times of its namesake, the son of a whore, Ms. Terri. Act II is the first full length album in the series (at almost 77 minutes), and includes some of the tracks recorded on the original Dear Hunter demo. It is the first real glimpse of whether or not Casey and crew will be able to pull off this ambitious project we have had, and my friends, the only reasonable reaction to this album is great pleasure that it is so well done, followed by optimism for the future of the series.

As far as modern progressive rock bands go, I think Dear Hunter are one of the better and more legitimate bands. They are recognisably prog, yet at the same time they don't really sound like any other band I have heard. There is a bit of a punk energy going on here, some indie sensibilities, and a proggy depth and detail.

This album tells the story of The Dear Hunter dealing with the death of his mother, falling in love with another prostitute (Ms. Leading) and then distrusting her because of her career. This leads to a bitter departure where the Dear Hunter escapes to war (where Act III takes place).

This is rock music but it meets almost none of the expectations of rock music. A fair sized ensemble of guests, including violin, cello, and harp, give this music a much bigger sound than you can typically achieve with a straight-up rock lineup. The music is also very tastefully blended with the concept, and the two never seem to be at odds. The band makes great use of contrast, there are tons of interesting and catchy musical themes on this album, and they even give some conceptual continuity to the series by reprising some themes from the first act (specifically the "faster save me" and "take me to the lake" themes).

The music in fact benefits greatly from the theme and I would say this Act is even more successful than Act III (which I also greatly enjoyed). The Bitter Suite, which represents The Dear Hunter falling for Miss Leading, is beautifully done, showing how and why the Dear Hunter falls in love, while at the same time never letting the listener forget that they are in a bawdy house. The next track, Smiling Swine, gives a great impression of the afterglow, while Red Hands shows the character weakness of our protagonist as well as the difficulty of loving a prostitute. All of these aspects take the music into interesting places, ranging from delicate to rowdy to aggressive and distrustful. The moment at the end of Red Hands where the Dear Hunter is consumed with guilt (Oh my god, what have I done? Now, my darling, put your clothes back on) is both tense and catchy, yet there is depth to the music as well.

Definitely a great piece of music. So far, the first three Acts have all been great and if the next three are half as good as this album, then they will be worth the time and effort. Recommended.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars This is Act II of an amazing 6 act rock opera. The Dear Hunter's first album was the prelude to this project, and now the story continues, but this time Casey Crescenzo has recruited a full band to help out, and this gives the album even more depth than before. Two of the members from the band "Circa Survive" have joined into the line-up this time around.

This album starts right where the last one left off. At the end of Act I, there was a short hidden track of what sounded like an orchestra working up to something and then basically cut off. This is continued in the Overture to this act, and gets us ready for another great collection of movements for Act II of this rock opera.

Just like before, each song is packed full of emotion and passion, and continues in the appropriate rock opera style with a lot of progressive elements and techniques. While it is true that there is a little more of an alternative flair to this album, it doesn't take away from the overall greatness of the music. If you feel you have a problem with this, then you need to realize that this adds a needed depth to the album. The production is still excellent. The music is outstanding. And there is enough ingenuity and exploration that it should make prog lovers happy.

Most people that have reviewed this album consider it excellent, and it is. There is a lot more variety here than what existed on the first album and to me this only adds to the album's greatness. The music is one step above the artists that people like to compare them to, like better than Muse by a long shot, and Dredg in continuity and development. There are those that lament that prog is dead or that this isn't to their liking for whatever reason. I guess everyone has their own tastes, but whether they like it or not doesn't make it not progressive music. Some are quick to pass judgement that it sounds too alternative, and quite frankly, I see nothing wrong with that. This is progressive music after all, so expect some progress. If you've only heard it once, then you haven't really given it a chance yet. It gets better with repeated listens, and I find that is the case with all progressive rock, no matter what year it was released. As far as dabbling in other styles of music, just remember that Queen is the master of variety, and that is also what made them progressive because almost everything they did prior to "The Game" was excellent no matter if it was lounge music, ragtime, opera, or rock. Same thing here. Every thing on this album is tasteful, well performed and produced.

The main problem with the first album was it was too short. Well this one makes up for it in a big way. Originally, 2 hours worth of music was written for the album. It was cut back to 80 minutes so that it could be issued as a single disc, thus keeping costs down for consumers. You can't tell that by listening to it though. And expect a lot of surprises here, like violins, brass and harmonies popping up in unexpected places. This music never gets tired because of the variety and for the most part, staying away from the typical pop formulas. The verse, verse, chorus, instrumental break, verse, chorus formula is mostly avoided, but melody and quality is never compromised. And there is always something interesting and intriguing around every corner.

The story is great, a young boy growing into maturity and trying to discover love and acceptance, and trying to understand his mother's profession (who passes away at the first part of the act) and how it connects to him and what his destiny is in life. The passion and emotion is all there, as it should be in a great rock opera. Casey has one of the most dynamic and emotional voices in music and he knows how to use it and not abuse it.

Anyway, most people seem to love this music, but for me the test is the test of time. Does the music sound dated almost a decade later? No. Does it still have the same impact? Yes. Is everything apparent at first listen or does it get better each time you hear it? It does get better, it grows better the more you hear it, and there are always things you discover each time you hear it. Those are true tests of great music. Oh, and it's full of progressive traits that aren't forced or seem fake and after 80 minutes, it never gets boring which is really tough to do for some substandard progressive bands. I can't give this anything less than 5 stars again, it is up there with the masterpieces of progressive rock and should be as such because of it's ingenuity and it's elements of progressive composition. This is not music put together in a few days, this is the work of a lifetime, developed and perfected in a compositional manner and not in the typical cookie-cutter, shallow pop music style. This is music for the ages, not for the moment.

Review by Kempokid
4 stars The issue with the idea of making a 5 album long concept album is a twofold one. Not only does it become that much more crucial that each part is able to garner a strong positive reception, lest nobody actually cares and you've shot yourself in the foot with such lofty goals, but you've got to make sure that the music, but you also need to make sure that the music itself has merit even without the narrative aspect of it. The Dear Hunter proved to succeed in both of these areas with their debut, but would only end up outdoing their ambition with its 2nd act. Not only is this album double the length, but it also finds itself pulling from a broader range of influences and adding considerably more detail to the already busy sound they put on display. There might be some flawed bits in this one, especially with its length paving the way to some filler, but even so, Act II certainly pushed the band forward, even if it wasn't quite as good as what they'd become soon after.

One aspect that I feel Act II did particularly well is the way most of these tracks transition into each other cleanly and cohesively, almost making it all feel like one big suite, reinforcing the feeling of it all being one constantly progressing story arc. It not only provides some appeal for those who just want to listen to the album, as it's nothing intrusive and has some charm, especially with the way it can fall into reprises of those previous songs, but it further rewards those who have interest in the narrative components of the band's writing. The first couple of songs of the album reveal that despite some of the rawness being cut out of their sound in favour of more detailed symphonic arrangements and the like, that both the sense of melody and powerful intensity remain completely intact. The Lake and The River especially represents this with its gorgeous melodies and often upbeat instrumentation being paired with Casey's vocals being equal parts melancholic and passionate. Often even during the more subdued sections, you'll find the backing vocal arrangements carrying these more fierce qualities instead. This song all culminates in both aspects crashing together with some wonderfully distorted guitar to bring it all to a climactic close, with its little coda then acting as a perfect leadup to the next song.

The more progressive angle to the band also shines through quite a lot here, bringing forth a vast array of emotions that represent the tumultuous story that's being conveyed. So many of these songs even on their own end up effortlessly moving through so many ideas, whether it's The Church and the Dime's gradual shift from a sense of exploration and curiosity to desperation and sorrow, or the total stylistic 180 of The Bitter Suite I & II, Act II remembers to almost always keep the listener on their toes. Despite all the effort made to bring a much more refined sound to the table, there's also no doubt that The Dear Hunter still know how to have some fun with things. For every beautiful, heartfelt songs this has, such as The Bitter Suite III, you've usually got something far more upbeat waiting for you right after, such as Smiling Swine, a song that manages to sound so gleeful that it becomes borderline unhinged. This balance the album strikes is its strongest quality, keeping things varied in multiple ways and providing so much compelling contrast from song to song due to how tastefully both extremes are handled.

Unfortunately, even with so much done right, Act II still ends up being one of the band's weaker albums due to the way its flaws prevent this from being as enjoyable a full album experience as it by all rights should be. A lot of this comes down to the way the final few tracks fall rather flat for the most part. The aforementioned sense of balance that ties much of the album together falters by the end, with the multitude of more sombre, emotional songs becoming quite draining. This feels both because of the more homogenous sound this last stretch has as a result, combined with the length of the album beginning to be felt in these final few songs, turning a potentially minor misstep into something that feels far larger, and making it all a bit of a slog to get through. It's not really the end of the world by any means, mind you, the album's still great, but the drop in quality that rears its head by the end stops this from reaching its incredible potential.

Despite the issues I may find the album to have, I cannot deny the fact that this is an amazing album that improves almost everything great the band had already established while also feeling like its own distinct identity, rather than just a 2nd part of the same album. So much this album does highlights why The Dear Hunter are one of my favourite bands out there right now, with the progressive and indie rock core being elevated by a lot of theatrics and embellishments to nail that rock opera aesthetic in the best ways. Even with my complaints, I feel like this is a good entry point into the band's earlier sound, captures their intensity while demonstrating their more elegant, beautiful moments, giving the listener a good overview of the band while also showing them some of their best songs as well.

Best songs: The Lake and the River, The Oracles of Delphi Express, The Bitter Suite I & II, Smiling Swine

Weakest songs: Blood of the Rose, Where the Road Parts

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